Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said that the state is ready to receive the non-resident Indians as and when the central government allows operation of aircraft to bring them back. The Kerala government has continuously been raising the issues of Indians, especially Keralites, who have been stranded in other countries.
Ahead of the process to receive the non-resident Keralites (NRKs), Kerala government began the registration through the Non Resident Keralites Affairs (Norka) website. Till Tuesday evening, 2.76 lakh NRKs from over 150 countries had registered on the Norka website indicating their desire to come back to Kerala.
According to official estimates, there are least 33 lakh NRKs who are residing in various countries, including 22 lakh in the Gulf region, and the government is expecting around three to 5.5 lakh of them to come back within 30 days once the flight services are resumed.
"As per the initial numbers, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Thrissur districts [will] have the maximum number of returnees. A committee under the District Collector with representatives from Airports Authority of India, Kerala Police and Health Department would oversee the elaborate arrangements at airports to receive the NRKs," Vijayan told reporters after the daily evaluation meeting on COVID-19.
He said there will be doctors and paramedical staff at the airport for detailed checking of the arriving passengers and a roaster of the passengers would be obtained from the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs well in advance.
After the initial screening, those without symptoms would be sent to their homes for quarantine and there would be regular monitoring by the police and healthcare workers to ensure that they follow the quarantine rules.
"Telemedicine facilities and mobile medical units would be set up under panchayats to ensure proper medical care for those under isolation. Those who cannot undergo quarantine at home can opt for the government quarantine centres," Vijayan said.
On the other hand, those with symptoms will be moved straight to the quarantine centres and their luggage will be sent home. The chief minister said adequate quarantine and medical facilities near airports have been identified and made ready.
"If the Centre decides to bring the expats by ships, we will make similar arrangements at the ports also. There is no shortage of Viral Transport Medium and we have enough stock of PCR and RNA extraction kits. The Kerala Medical Services Corporation has been directed to procure more kits," Vijayan said.
While in the case of Keralites in other Indian states, Norka has begun the registration on April 29. Priority would be given to those who have gone for medical treatment in other states and residents of other states who have registered for specialist treatment in Kerala. Students, those who have lost jobs, those who went for exams or interviews, can also register
"People from Kerala who are currently stuck or stranded in different parts of the country because of the lockdown and desire to come back to Kerala can register their details on the Norka website," he said.
Earlier, the government in an order made it clear that the expatriates from Kerala settled in various countries should carry mandatorily a COVID-19 negative certificate when they come back. Through this, the government aims to curtail fresh overseas cases.
"We will allow only those people who carry the COVID negative certificate (to travel to the state). Only after which they can register with NORKA", state Home Secretary Dr Vishwas Mehta told PTI in an interview earlier.
"Our strategy is NRKs should get themselves tested and come to the state with a COVID-19 negative certificate. Once they reach the state, they will be tested at the airports. If they are found symptomatic, they would be shifted to COVID care centres. Those without any symptoms will be sent home, but they will be under observation for 14 days," he said.
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As the government anticipates a huge influx of NRKs, all the arrangements are being made including Covid-19 hospitals in all districts and 2,50,000 additional beds. About 1.4 lakh beds have been identified in government and private healthcare facilitates in the state to deal with the cases.
Mehta, in his interview, further pointed out that the Public Works Department (PWD) has also begun the process of physical examination of the facilities identified to be used as COVID care centres.
“Around 27,000 institutions, including hotels, resorts, hostels, schools, lodges, stadiums and even auditoriums have been identified where we can accommodate around 10 lakh people, including NRKs. Space has been found. Stadiums and auditoriums will be used as a last resort,” he said.
After the registration, the government will make a list of how to bring them back as per priority. “Pregnant women, NRKs needing medical treatments, people whose visa has expired, workers in adverse conditions, etc. will be given priority, said the chief minister on Tuesday.
In case of people who are stuck in other states, priority would be given to those who have gone for medical treatment to other states and residents of other states who have registered for specialist treatment in Kerala. Students, people who have lost jobs and those wanting to come to Kerala post their retirement would get preference, said Pinarayi Vijayan.
(With Inputs from PTI)
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